Original featured image source: MAC Instagram’s repost (here) from @wendy_online

Celebrating #NationalLipstickDay

29 July 2017 was a special day for all lipstick lovers alike; it was #NationalLipstickDay. To celebrate, MAC Cosmetics Australia announced a lipstick giveaway marketing campaign. They were going to give away full-sized lipsticks that day at selected boutique stores, for free.

All participants had to do was follow the Mac Cosmetics Australia Instagram account, sign up in store and then show up at the specified locations so they could enjoy their shiny new lipstick.

They announced this on their Instagram, specifying, “Note: Strictly whilst stock lasts on selected shades only”.

MAC marketing campaign
MAC’s Instagram announcement of the giveaway

It had all the ingredients of a great promotional marketing campaign for MAC to increase Instagram followers and sign ups.

Except for the fact that stock ran out very, very early.

Despite hundreds of people lining up before 9 am, stores ran out of lipsticks within approximately 15-minutes of their doors opening.

Each store was given a different number of lipsticks. Some customers claimed that their local store only had 40 lipsticks while others had 100. Either way, customers were not happy with the limited amount of stock that was provided for what was promised to be a huge giveaway.

The aftermath saw hundreds of fuming customers. Some even promised to boycott the brand.

As one girl stated, she couldn’t “…believe I lined up for 2 hours only to find out only “100 lipsticks were available.

MAC has since had to issue an apology in response to the growing number of complaints from customers.

A MAC spokesperson gave this statement to news.com.au:

Thank you to everyone who visited M.A.C yesterday to celebrate National Lipstick Day and collect a free lipstick of select shades.

We experienced the most overwhelming response and due to popular demand, many of our locations ran out of stock early on in the day.

We gave away thousands of lipsticks across the day but know some consumers have missed out and we are really sorry to those left disappointed.”

Customers are reputing this claim, however, commenting, “It wasn’t due to popular demand that you ran out, it was a scam. My Myer had only 50 lipsticks to give away, that’s not a lipstick give away [sic].”

Some other comments left by upset customers who walked away empty handed included, “Such a poorly organised promotion to generate foot traffic without explaining how limited stock would be or that it would only be a couple of shades. Not impressed and not following MAC Cosmetics anymore.”

“Very disappointing promo. Didn’t realise there would be so few given out. Wouldn’t have wasted the journey. Why didn’t you just hand them out instead of making such a big announcement and then having such limited giveaways?”

“Southland ran out in less than 20 minutes and hundreds of people left disappointed. Social media FAIL. If you’re going to do a huge social media campaign, have the goods to back it up. #marketingfail

MAC Lipstick Marketing Campaign Mistakes

Let’s get the facts straight first. Of course, the limited stock was going to run out quickly. MAC is one of the biggest makeup brands and they were giving away one of their most popular products for free. It was going to be busy and some customers were inevitably going to leave empty-handed.

But did MAC mislead customers by giving the illusion that there was going to be much more stock than there was?

What Could Have Been Done Differently

Giveaways and promotions are a great marketing tool, as long as you can live up to the hype. While MAC stock was definitely not going to last all day, maybe there were some other ways to control the giveaway that would have helped minimise the disappointment and anger from the customers that missed out.

MAC could have approached the marketing campaign differently. For example, they could have stated that “the first x number of people will receive a new lipstick in each store”.

This way, customers would be aware of what “limited supply” actually means.

Doing this would reduce the disappointment and take away blame from MAC for not adequately living up to the supply-and-demand.

What You Can Learn from This Case Study

This case study highlights the importance of being transparent with your customers. While MAC did not outrightly say that everyone will be able to receive one, it did give the illusion that there was going to be much more stock than there actually was.

So if you want to run a marketing campaign for your company, make sure that you provide clear outlines and guidelines that take away confusion. Be open with your loyal customers, offer better communication and remember, transparency is key.

What do you think of MAC’s lipstick giveaway? Did they deserve the criticism or was it unfair? How would you run a marketing campaign differently? Leave me a comment below, I would love to know!


I am a copywriter, creative writer, blogger, and SEO specialist, here to help you grow your business, one word at a time.

  • I heard about MAC giving away free lipsticks last weekend! Whenever I hear about shops giving stuff away, it’s definitely a campaign to attract people to go out for the trip and while they’re there, they “might as well” buy some more products to make the trip worthwhile.

    From what happened, MAC should’ve been more specific about their giveaway… Like first 50 or 100 lined up, like you said!

    I really liked this case study that you did. I know it’ll take more for me to go out to a giveaway because fighting through crowds or getting up super early isn’t worth it :’).


    • Thanks Nancy! Yeah being specific would have been better for both the company and customers, win-win situation. I am the same. I would never go to a giveaway. Not worth the crowd or long wait hours!

  • Rose Mary Griffith

    Lots of mistakes made by them–it’s bad to “rip off” a customer that way when it could have been a great opportunity to make more and retain them.

    • It definitely could have been an opportunity to really grow their following with loyal customers. Too bad it backfired.

  • It makes you wonder what they were thinking when they set that up. Most companies are aware of the power of social media. And surely any giveaway is going to generate a lot of interest for any company who has a substantial following. It seems that this promo did more to hurt them than to help them. I think MAC should have made it up to their customers by holding some sort of customer appreciation event in their stores. Because now it seems that their customers feel duped.

    • I do agree that it seems to have hurt than rather than helped their brand. I do wonder how they wlil try to rectify this or if they will even do anything at all.

  • Phoenicia Oyeniyi

    MAC should have mentioned the number of lipsticks they had to give away. For example “the first 50 women at the door will receive a free lipstick”. Instead they gave the impression there was a limitless supply.

  • Stating the number of lipsticks available would have helped, and it seems odd that each store wasn’t given the same number. That at least offers transparency and allows a person to better gauge how much it’s worth to stand in line for a couple of hours for a free product. I’m definitely not one who would go stand in line for a free product, and I try my best not to shop at all during the Christmas season.

    • I also think it is strange that stores were given a different number of lipsticks. No consistency. And I am the same, I always avoid shopping and boxing day sales when it is incredibly busy. Not worth the crowd in my opinion .

  • Courtney Hardy

    I didn’t know about their giveaway until I read this post. But it does sound like a scam. They just wanted all the social media followers, but they didn’t want to give away much lipstick for it. They should be clear about their stock instead of promising something that wouldn’t come true.

  • Absolutely, Emily. MAC should have very clearly stated how many free lipsticks were available at each store or said there was a very limited supply available so that customers knew it was a limited offer.

    • I agree. That would have prevented so much backlash and made customers that had lined up and travelled to these stores not feel cheated.

  • William Rusho

    Wow, what a story about not being prepared. If they were to promote lipstick, they should of known to have tons available.
    A perfect example of trying to do a positive PR campaign, that eventually hurt them in the end.

    • You’re right, there was more negative backlash than there were positive things said about it.

  • Catarina Alexon

    How stupid to not have enough lipsticks. Presumably the person in charge of that campaign has been fired.

    • I agree, it was a very preventable mistake.